Puzzles
#41
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A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon - curiouserinstitute - Medium

Rabbit Rabbit

32-41 minutes

I am a game designer with experience in a very small niche. I create and research games designed to be played in reality. I’ve worked in Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), LARPs, experience fiction, interactive theater, and “serious games”. Stories and games that can start on a computer, and finish in the real world. Fictions designed to feel as real as possible. Games that teach you. Puzzles that come to life all around the players. Games where the deeper you dig, the more you find. Games with rabbit holes that invite you into wonderland and entice you through the looking glass.

When I saw QAnon, I knew exactly what it was and what it was doing. I had seen it before. I had almost built it before. It was gaming’s evil twin. A game that plays people. (cue ominous music)

QAnon has often been compared to ARGs and LARPs and rightly so. It uses many of the same gaming mechanisms and rewards. It has a game-like feel to it that is evident to anyone who has ever played an ARG, online role-play (RP) or LARP before. The similarities are so striking that it has often been referred to as a LARP or ARG. However this beast is very very different from a game.

It is the differences that shed the light on how QAnon works and many of them are hard to see if you’re not involved in game development. QAnon is like the reflection of a game in a mirror, it looks just like one, but it is inverted.
Guided Apophenia

In one of the very first experience fictions (XF) I ever designed, the players had to explore a creepy basement looking for clues. The object they were looking for was barely hidden and the clue was easy. It was Scooby Doo easy. I definitely expected no trouble in this part of the game.

But there was trouble. I didn’t know it then, but its name was APOPHENIA.

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©Art Jonak 2012 — Coolest cloud ever! — CC BY-NC 2.0

Apophenia is : “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)”

As the participants started searching for the hidden object, on the dirt floor, were little random scraps of wood.

How could that be a problem!?

It was a problem because three of the pieces made the shape of a perfect arrow pointing right at a blank wall. It was uncanny. It had to be a clue. The investigators stopped and stared at the wall and were determined to figure out what the clue meant and they were not going one step further until they did. The whole game was derailed. Then, it got worse. Since there obviously was no clue there, the group decided the clue they were looking for was IN the wall. The collection of ordinary tools they found conveniently laying around seemed to enforce their conclusion that this was the correct direction. The arrow was pointing to the clue and the tools were how they would get to it. How obvious could it be?

I stared in horror because it all fit so well. It was better and more obvious than the clue I had hidden. I could see it. It was all random chance but I could see the connections that had been made were all completely logical. I had a crude backup plan and I used it quickly before these well-meaning players started tearing apart the basement wall with crowbars looking for clues that did not exist.

These were normal people and their assumptions were normal and logical and completely wrong.

In most ARG-like games apophenia is the plague of designers and players, sometimes leading participants to wander further and further away from the plot and causing designers to scramble to get them back or (better yet) incorporate their ideas. In role-playing games, ARGs, video games, and really anything where the players have agency, apophenia is going to be an issue.

Snip
This happens because in real games there are actual solutions to actual puzzles and a real plot created by the designers. It’s easy to get off track because there is a track. A great game runner (often called a puppet-master) can use one or two of these speculations to create an even better game, but only as much as the plot can be adjusted for in real time or planned out before-hand. It can create amazing moments in a game, but it’s not easy. For instance, I wish I could have instantly entombed something into that wall in the basement because it would have worked so well, but I was out of luck!

If you are a designer, and have puzzles, and have a plot, then apophenia is a wild card you always have to be concerned about.

QAnon is a mirror reflection of this dynamic. Here apophenia is the point of everything. There are no scripted plots. There are no puzzles to solve created by game designers. There are no solutions.

QAnon grows on the wild misinterpretation of random data, presented in a suggestive fashion in a milieu designed to help the users come to the intended misunderstanding. Maybe “guided apophenia” is a better phrase. Guided because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. They have pre-seeded the conclusions. They are constantly getting the player lost by pointing out unrelated random events and creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message Q is delivering.

There is no reality here. No actual solution in the real world. Instead, this is a breadcrumb trail AWAY from reality. Away from actual solutions and towards a dangerous psychological rush. It works very well because when you “figure it out yourself” you own it. You experience the thrill of discovery, the excitement of the rabbit hole, the acceptance of a community that loves and respects you. Because you were convinced to “connect the dots yourself” you can see the absolute logic of it. This is the conclusion you arrived at. More about this later.

Everyone on the board agrees with you because it’s highly likely they were the ones that pointed it out to you just for that purpose. (more on this later)

    “Hey, what’s that?!”

    “It looks like an arrow, pointing at the wall.”

    “Why do you think it’s there? Do people just leave arrows pointing to things randomly? What does your common sense say about that?”

    “It says there must be something there.”

    “Yes. You are right. Maybe you should look at it more closely?”

Snip
The difference is that these manufactured connections lead to the desired conclusions Q’s handlers have created. When players arrive at the “correct” answers they are showered with adoration, respect, and social credit. Like a teenage RP, the “correct” answer is the one that the group respects the most and makes the story the most enjoyable. The idea that bolsters the theory. The correct answer is the one that provides the poster with the most credit.

It’s like a Darwinian fiction lab, where the best stories and the most engaging and satisfying misinterpretations rise to the top and are then elaborated upon for the next version.

Even Q-Anon was only one of several “anons” including FBIanon and CIAanon, etc, etc. Q rose to the top, so it got its own YouTube channels. That tested, so it moved to Reddit. The theories that didn’t work, disappeared while others got up-voted. It’s ingenious. It’s AI with a group-think engine. The group, led by the puppet masters, decide what is the most entertaining and gripping explanation, and that is amplified. It’s a Slenderman board gone amok.

Let’s go back to the arrow on the ground again.

It was not an arrow on the ground, pointing to a clue in a wall. It was just some random bits of wood. They did not discover an arrow. They created it. They saw random pieces of wood and applied their intelligence to it, and this is everything.

It’s easy for people to forget that they are not discovering the story, but creating it from random data.
Propaganda and Manipulation

Another major difference between QAnon and an actual game, is that Q is almost pure propaganda. That IS the sole purpose of this. It’s not advertising a product, it’s not for fun, and it’s not an art project. There is no doubt about the political nature of the propaganda either. From ancient tropes about Jews and Democrats eating babies (blood-libel re-booted) to anti-science hysteria, this is all the solid reliable stuff of authoritarianism. This is the internet’s re-purposing of hatred’s oldest hits. The messaging is spot on. The “drops” implanted in an aspic of anti-Semitic, misogynist, and grotesque posts on posting boards that, indeed, have been implicated in many of the things the fake conspiracy is supposed to be guilty of!

Q is also operating in conjunction with many other initiatives as documented by other sources and other developers. The coordination is consistent.

A game helps the people who play build an internal world that best serves them. Q helps players develop an internal world that best serves Q’s initiatives.

Let’s look at how that works.
Game Play
Q is a fictional character

I’m afraid this needs to be said. Q is not a real person, but a fictional character.

QAnon uses the oldest trope of all mystery fiction. A mysterious stranger shows up and drops a strange clue leading to long-hidden secrets which his clues, and your detecting power, can reveal.

more
https://medium.com/curiouserinstitute/a-...0972548be5

Half the population at Base Camp was clinically delusional.
-- John Krakauer 1996 Everest Expedition.

Apophenia is : “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)”
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#42
Cicada, you nicked open Pandora's with Cicada...

Scream1 V6sRZf4 

Have fun with that one, kiddies, a mind bender only because of two things:

Requires a team of wacko geniuses to play that game.

And the purpose, the clear purpose, has eluded nearly everyone.

(Squirrel considers for a moment...)

[Image: 89y76zj.jpg]

Squirrel happy to stay within his limits.

Hehe.
[Image: XhIy8dz.jpg][Image: OGlXtJa.png]
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#43
(02-22-2021, 10:24 PM)PresidentElectSquirrel Wrote: Cicada, you nicked open Pandora's with Cicada...

Scream1 V6sRZf4 

Have fun with that one, kiddies, a mind bender only because of two things:

Requires a team of wacko geniuses to play that game.

And the purpose, the clear purpose, has eluded nearly everyone.

(Squirrel considers for a moment...)

[Image: 89y76zj.jpg]

Squirrel happy to stay within his limits.

Hehe.

Yeah, I played that game years back when it first came out.

We all got pretty far too...but another group beat us to the end.


Como estas? Te mandé un mensaje.
Todo bien?

Heartflowers
[Image: tkRlgbt.png] There has never been a time more important than now to remind those in power that our Constitution does not need to be re-written; it needs to be re-read.-Ron Coleman, Constitutional Attorney
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#44
(02-22-2021, 11:57 PM)Dangerously Nameless Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 10:24 PM)PresidentElectSquirrel Wrote: Cicada, you nicked open Pandora's with Cicada...

Scream1 V6sRZf4 

Have fun with that one, kiddies, a mind bender only because of two things:

Requires a team of wacko geniuses to play that game.

And the purpose, the clear purpose, has eluded nearly everyone.

(Squirrel considers for a moment...)

[Image: 89y76zj.jpg]

Squirrel happy to stay within his limits.

Hehe.

Yeah, I played that game years back when it first came out.

We all got pretty far too...but another group beat us to the end.


Como estas? Te mandé un mensaje.
Todo bien?

Heartflowers


Did you get to, and or past, the phone call stage ?

Half the population at Base Camp was clinically delusional.
-- John Krakauer 1996 Everest Expedition.

Apophenia is : “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)”
[-] The following 2 users Like Max's post:
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#45
(02-22-2021, 11:57 PM)Dangerously Nameless Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 10:24 PM)PresidentElectSquirrel Wrote: Cicada, you nicked open Pandora's with Cicada...

Scream1 V6sRZf4 

Have fun with that one, kiddies, a mind bender only because of two things:

Requires a team of wacko geniuses to play that game.

And the purpose, the clear purpose, has eluded nearly everyone.

(Squirrel considers for a moment...)

[Image: 89y76zj.jpg]

Squirrel happy to stay within his limits.

Hehe.

Yeah, I played that game years back when it first came out.

We all got pretty far too...but another group beat us to the end.


Como estas? Te mandé un mensaje.
Todo bien?

Heartflowers
I'm not surprised, you've a clever mind. Heartflowers So many teams, and just the fact people could pull past the first obstacle spoke to their capabilities.  

Como loco, bella mujer.  Chuckle Todavia no llega tu mensaje, pero ya sabes como es el inter estos dias.  Desquiciado. Hehe.

Estoy entre terminando un trabajo actual para un cliente y una oferta de posible trabajo en otra parte del estado. Todavia no se. Heartflowers  

Y tu, como andas?
[Image: XhIy8dz.jpg][Image: OGlXtJa.png]
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#46
(02-23-2021, 12:24 AM)Max Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 11:57 PM)Dangerously Nameless Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 10:24 PM)PresidentElectSquirrel Wrote: Cicada, you nicked open Pandora's with Cicada...

Scream1 V6sRZf4 

Have fun with that one, kiddies, a mind bender only because of two things:

Requires a team of wacko geniuses to play that game.

And the purpose, the clear purpose, has eluded nearly everyone.

(Squirrel considers for a moment...)

[Image: 89y76zj.jpg]

Squirrel happy to stay within his limits.

Hehe.

Yeah, I played that game years back when it first came out.

We all got pretty far too...but another group beat us to the end.


Como estas? Te mandé un mensaje.
Todo bien?

Heartflowers


Did you get to, and or past, the phone call stage ?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one part of the lore the phone call stage was a one shot and others saying that it wasn't part of the original and yet others stating that there were more phone calls?

Part of Cicada's enchantment, it kept everyone guessing. Chuckle
[Image: XhIy8dz.jpg][Image: OGlXtJa.png]
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#47
(02-23-2021, 12:24 AM)Max Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 11:57 PM)Dangerously Nameless Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 10:24 PM)PresidentElectSquirrel Wrote: Cicada, you nicked open Pandora's with Cicada...

Scream1 V6sRZf4 

Have fun with that one, kiddies, a mind bender only because of two things:

Requires a team of wacko geniuses to play that game.

And the purpose, the clear purpose, has eluded nearly everyone.

(Squirrel considers for a moment...)

[Image: 89y76zj.jpg]

Squirrel happy to stay within his limits.

Hehe.

Yeah, I played that game years back when it first came out.

We all got pretty far too...but another group beat us to the end.


Como estas? Te mandé un mensaje.
Todo bien?

Heartflowers


Did you get to, and or past, the phone call stage ?

You mean the phone number we had to call that was based in Texas?

Or the phone call that the few who made it past that stage received?

I didn't go past the phone number in Texas stage. So I don't know at what point people that continued to solve the puzzles got a call from the creators of the puzzle.

Heartflowers
[Image: tkRlgbt.png] There has never been a time more important than now to remind those in power that our Constitution does not need to be re-written; it needs to be re-read.-Ron Coleman, Constitutional Attorney
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#48
(02-23-2021, 01:40 PM)PresidentElectSquirrel Wrote:
(02-23-2021, 12:24 AM)Max Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 11:57 PM)Dangerously Nameless Wrote: Yeah, I played that game years back when it first came out.

We all got pretty far too...but another group beat us to the end.


Como estas? Te mandé un mensaje.
Todo bien?

Heartflowers


Did you get to, and or past, the phone call stage ?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one part of the lore the phone call stage was a one shot and others saying that it wasn't part of the original and yet others stating that there were more phone calls?

Part of Cicada's enchantment, it kept everyone guessing. Chuckle

Good questions.

I only played in 2012. I didn't play in 2013 or 2014.

I played as a group...on GLP. I think a couple of people in my group may actually be on this forum.

They may have gone further. 1dunno1

I recall a couple of people getting mad that they were playing it alone while others were playing as a collective. I honestly didn't know if the purpose of the game was to showcase how smart the individual was so someone could hire them...or to test people in a team environment.

The one thing I have found interesting is that a Cicada has a life cycle of 17 years...that number is again playing a role. (Since 2017).
Heartflowers
[Image: tkRlgbt.png] There has never been a time more important than now to remind those in power that our Constitution does not need to be re-written; it needs to be re-read.-Ron Coleman, Constitutional Attorney
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#49
(02-23-2021, 01:53 PM)Dangerously Nameless Wrote:
(02-23-2021, 12:24 AM)Max Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 11:57 PM)Dangerously Nameless Wrote: Yeah, I played that game years back when it first came out.

We all got pretty far too...but another group beat us to the end.


Como estas? Te mandé un mensaje.
Todo bien?

Heartflowers


Did you get to, and or past, the phone call stage ?

You mean the phone number we had to call that was based in Texas?

Or the phone call that the few who made it past that stage received?

I didn't go past the phone number in Texas stage.  So I don't know at what point people that continued to solve the puzzles got a call from the creators of the puzzle.

Heartflowers

This one. A recorded (?) female voice answers the phone..

"Very good. You have done well. There are three prime numbers associated with the original final .jpg image. 3301 is one of them. You will have to find the other two. Multiply all three of these numbers together and add a .com on the end to find the next step. Good luck. Good-bye."

@PresidentElectSquirrel

Half the population at Base Camp was clinically delusional.
-- John Krakauer 1996 Everest Expedition.

Apophenia is : “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)”
[-] The following 1 user Likes Max's post:
  • Elric
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#50
(02-23-2021, 01:40 PM)PresidentElectSquirrel Wrote:
(02-23-2021, 12:24 AM)Max Wrote:
(02-22-2021, 11:57 PM)Dangerously Nameless Wrote: Yeah, I played that game years back when it first came out.

We all got pretty far too...but another group beat us to the end.


Como estas? Te mandé un mensaje.
Todo bien?

Heartflowers


Did you get to, and or past, the phone call stage ?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one part of the lore the phone call stage was a one shot and others saying that it wasn't part of the original and yet others stating that there were more phone calls?

Part of Cicada's enchantment, it kept everyone guessing. Chuckle

Got me. From my unfinished reading and, the accounts of some who (I guess?) figured it all (all stages) out, it was the starting point to the second level of the puzzle.

Half the population at Base Camp was clinically delusional.
-- John Krakauer 1996 Everest Expedition.

Apophenia is : “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)”
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